THREE members of the 18 Crown Casino staff that were detained in China have been formally charged by the country and could potentially face a lengthy spell behind bars as authorities prepare to move to trial.
A ministry statement said Australia had received formal arrest notifications from China after the trio were detained alongside 15 other members of Crown in a government crackdown on offshore gambling promotions within the country.
The 18 members of staff were originally detained in raids across China back in October 13 and 14.
Casino gambling is illegal in China, but many gambling operators offer deals to citizens who wish to gamble aboard.
However, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s harsh mentality surrounding the laws has seen China come down hard on anyone deemed to be even coming close to flirting inside the ‘grey area’.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Tuesday the detained were in involved in a government crackdown that placed them in a precarious position.
“There is … an overall anti-corruption agenda of President Xi Jinping and gambling is one of the areas of interest to them,” Bishop said.
China has not yet stated what the actual charges the trio will face but the Australian government is expecting clarification within the coming days. The statuses of the other 15 detained staff members is not yet known.
Relatives of those in custody confirmed the Chinese government had begun issuing formal arrest notices over the weekend.
A member of one of the detained said that “the notice just says they have been arrested under ‘gambling crimes’, that’s it”.
Minister Julie Bishop said government staff visited the trio on Tuesday.
“They are in good health, they are all represented by lawyers and we were able to provide advice and support and messages from their families,” Bishop said.
“It is a very difficult circumstance, but we will continue to provide whatever advice and support that we are able.”
Crown is yet to issue a statement.